Bus Accident Attorneys

In major metropolitan areas, buses are cheap alternatives to driving. You don’t have to find or pay for parking. You don’t have to navigate the traffic jams. You can sleep, read the paper, and get ready for work in the morning or unwind in the evening.

In rural and suburban areas, buses help working parents, and those without their own vehicles, shuttle children to and from school.

Sometimes, however, something goes wrong. A bus driver makes a mistake and hits another vehicle or pedestrian. Maybe you or your child are in that vehicle or in that crosswalk. Maybe you’re riding on the bus. But either way, you or your child are injured—and due to the size of the bus, those injuries are probably serious. So are the bills.

If you or your child were injured in a school bus accident, you deserve answers to your legal questions about obtaining compensation for your injuries. The experienced bus accident lawyers at Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, have helped many other people just like you, including bus accident victims. Let us help you recover the compensation you deserve under the law.

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Types of Bus Accidents

While school buses make up the most common type of bus involved in accidents, as reported by the FMCSA—the federal agency tasked with regulating and overseeing public bus transport in the U.S.—there are other types of buses for which accident data has been collected, as well, including transit buses, which account for 35 percent of all fatal bus accidents, and intercity buses, which account for 13 percent of all fatal bus accidents. Below, we take a closer look at those types of buses and accidents.

School buses: A school bus driver was recently cited for a crash that wounded a child on board as well as the driver of another vehicle. The accident occurred shortly after 7 a.m., when the driver of the bus failed to yield the right-of-way at a stop sign and pulled out into traffic. The bus was struck by a Dodge Dart. The driver of the Dodge was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Approximately 12 children were aboard the bus when it crashed, en route to an area middle school. One child suffered injuries and was treated at the scene. The wreck also triggered a secondary accident, when a van stopped for the initial accident and was sideswiped by a Chevy Avalanche that was driving in an adjacent travel lane. The 16-year-old driver of the Chevy said that she could not stop for the accident due to icy conditions and was cited for driving too fast for conditions. The 30-year-old bus driver was cited for inattentive driving for the initial wreck.

Officials at the scene of the school bus accident expressed relief that the injuries suffered in the accident weren’t more serious. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 73 fatal school bus accidents took place in the nation, accounting for 40 percent of all bus crashes. The following year, the National Safety Council reported that 113 people died in accidents involving school buses.

In recent years, about 70 percent of those killed in accidents involving school buses were the occupants of other vehicles. 17 percent of the fatalities were pedestrians, 5 percent were school bus passengers, 4 percent were school bus drivers, and 2 percent were bicyclists. However, while the most common fatalities in this type of accident are passengers of other vehicles, the people most commonly injured in school buses are passengers of the bus, accounting for 35 percent of all injuries.

Transit buses. Transit buses are those used by commuters within a city or region. The bus service is generally provided by a transit authority, and is often at least partially funded or owned by a regional governmental authority. These buses generally travel fixed routes within the city. Two men were injured when a bus operated by the Eagle County Transit System lost control on icy roads and skidded into the travel lane where the victims were traveling in their work truck. The pickup hit the side of the bus, and the bus slid down an embankment into the Eagle River. The bus was not carrying passengers at the time of the collision, and the bus driver was not injured. The men in the Toyota Tundra pickup truck were hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

Intercity buses. Intercity buses are those that travel from city to city, across state lines, or even from the United States to Mexico or Canada. The largest North American intercity carrier is Greyhound, which travels to 2,400 destinations on the continent, and attracts about 16 million passengers each year. A passenger’s picture of a Greyhound bus driver using his cell phone while driving is the latest evidence in the investigation of a crash in which 17 people were taken to the hospital with injuries. The crash occurred when the 64-year-old driver of the bus was traveling in the center of three northbound lanes and left his lane of travel, colliding with a flatbed truck. Moments before the crash, the passenger became concerned about the driver using his cell phone. Her family shared the photo with a local news outlet before forwarding it to the state police. Investigators will be looking into the driver’s cell phone records to see if he was actually on his phone at the time of the accident, which is standard procedure with this type of accident.

Other types of buses include church or activity buses and private tour buses. The FMCSA categorizes buses as private if they accept no form of compensation for the service, or as interstate commerce if they operate on a fixed route and are provided compensation for the service. Buses that carry up to nine passengers for compensation or up to 16 passengers with or without compensation must comply with FMCSA regulations, and the drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate the bus.

The Causes of Bus Accidents

There are different causes of bus accidents, some of which are unique to the vehicle type and driver and others that are hazards for drivers of any type of vehicle.

Some of these causes include:

  • Distractions. Distracted driving results in thousands of injuries and deaths in the nation each year, and may include common culprits, such as texting or other cell phone use, eating or drinking, visiting with passengers, or external distractions, such as work zones, previous accidents, other cars, or people on the sidewalk or roadway. Bus drivers, in particular, have the added distractions of unruly passengers.
  • Surveillance issues and blind spots. Like other large, commercial vehicles, buses have significant blind spots on all four sides, which may prevent bus drivers from seeing smaller vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists through their rear-view or side mirrors. This can result in an accident in which the bus driver may not even realize that he or she has struck someone.
  • Braking capabilities. The weight of a bus is many times heavier than that of other vehicles. This results in a longer distance needed to bring the vehicle to a safe stop. That distance may also increase on slippery roads and at higher speeds. A bus driver that follows other vehicles too closely, or comes upon a hazard that he or she did not detect in advance, risks having a collision.
  • Driver fatigue. Although FMCSA’s Hours of Service rules regulate how many hours a bus driver can drive at any given time, the job still entails many hours of sitting in one position, often seeing the same scenery day after day, and with the mental stress of tight schedules and unforeseen situations resulting from the actions of other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
  • Rollovers. Buses are tall, narrow vehicles with a high center of gravity. Because of this, they are prone to rolling over when involved in difficult driving situations, such as attempting to maneuver a tight curve or corner at speed or when engaging in collision avoidance maneuvers.
  • Inclement weather. Because of the bus’s massive side, maneuverability is always an issue, and even more so on wet or icy roads, where stopping distances are longer.
  • Inadequate training. Bus drivers generally must obtain a CDL, which provides some training, with the expectation that the carrier, school district, or transit authority will provide additional training upon hiring the driver, before he or she is permitted to take the route alone. However, tight schedules and driver shortages may lead to drivers assuming duties and confronting situations for which they have not been adequately prepared.
  • Poor maintenance or defects. Buses put on miles quickly, even on short regional routes. Because of this, they must have regular maintenance and undergo thorough inspections for potential defects or hazards before each trip. Additionally, manufacturers or distributors of auto parts used in the bus’s construction may fail in their duty to provide safe products. Maintenance and defect issues can result in deadly collisions.
  • Other drivers. Many bus accidents aren’t caused by the bus driver at all, but rather the driver of another vehicle. In one case, a woman appealed her conviction in a fatal school bus crash that killed three children and seriously injured a fourth, stating that the crash was an accident, but not a crime. The woman was convicted of three counts of reckless homicide, criminal recklessness, and passing a school bus, causing injury for the crash, which occurred when she passed a school bus and struck the children as they were crossing the road after exiting the bus. The woman claims she did not realize that the bus was stopped to let children off, in spite of the warning arm being extended and the flashing red lights being deployed. The accident resulted in the state legislature increasing the penalties for drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

A Push for Seat Belts

One accident has renewed the push for seat belts on passenger buses. The accident occurred when a tour bus out of New York, carrying 56 people including the driver, attempted to pass a tractor-trailer. The bus lost control and struck a concrete barrier before traveling up an embankment and then rolling over onto its side on the roadway. The tractor-trailer could not stop in time and struck the bus. Another tractor-trailer also struck the bus before colliding with a passenger car, and a third tractor-trailer also became involved in the crash. Three people on the bus, including the driver and two passengers, died. The crash also killed two UPS drivers riding in one of the tractor-trailers.

A board member with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that, while the accident remains under investigation and a final report wouldn’t be issued for another 18 to 24 months, one thing has become clear: some of the deaths and injuries to bus passengers—including a nine-year-old child who was ejected from the bus—may have been prevented if the passengers had been wearing seat belts. The tour bus, like the majority of passenger buses in the nation, was not equipped with passenger seat belts. An FMCSA rule requires passenger seat belts for all buses made after 2016. However, older buses are “grandfathered in” and exempt from the requirement. The NTSB member said that the board continues to recommend that all buses provide seat belts for their passengers.

Other Federal Regulations Involving School Buses

Entities and drivers providing bus service to the public are required to comply with regulations, including obtaining a CDL to drive the vehicle. Other regulations include:

  • Background checks on all drivers, including previous driving history
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
  • A physical examination to ensure that the driver is medically fit to handle the demands of the job
  • Complying with Hours of Service rules that limit the hours a driver can operate a vehicle before taking a break or an off-duty time, as well as required consecutive hours that a driver must spend off-duty before beginning another shift
  • Regularly-scheduled maintenance on vehicles, complete with log books as to when this maintenance was performed and who performed it
  • Daily pre-trip inspections of a vehicle to ensure that no obvious defects exist
  • A ban on texting and use of hand-held devices while driving
  • Accessibility to bus services for disabled individuals, including wheelchair access

The driver and carrier must comply with additional state and local requirements. An experienced bus accident attorney will figure out who is responsible for your bus accidents and develop a strong legal argument to support your claim.

Call Our Bus Accident Lawyers Today

Bus accident injuries pose complex legal considerations that involve big companies or government entities as well as huge medical expenses. Let us help you make sense of the process of obtaining compensation. For a free case evaluation with our bus accident attorneys, please call Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, at (877) 565-2993, feel free to begin a chat with one of our live representatives, or write to us by clicking here.